US Navy to name aircraft carrier in honor of black Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller

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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, at Pearl Harbor, the Navy is expected to announce that a $12.5 billion aircraft carrier will be named after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller, the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor for his actions on Dec. 7, 1941, when he manned a machine gun on the USS West Virginia to fire back at attacking Japanese planes.

“I think that Doris Miller is an American hero simply because of what he represents as a young man going beyond the call of what’s expected,” said Doreen Ravenscroft, president of Cultural Arts of Waco (Texas) and team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial.

In 1941 an African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy, and as far as rank was concerned, “he could not really get above a messman level,” Ravenscroft said. Miller’s actions started to turn the tide, she added.

“Without him really knowing, he actually was a part of the civil rights movement because he changed the thinking in the Navy,” Ravenscroft said Friday.

“In the end, the fact that he didn’t think about what could be repercussions — that wasn’t a thought when, at the time and in war, he did what was needed in his way to defend the United States of America,” she said.

He will be the first African American to have an aircraft carrier named after him, according to Navy records. The big ship is not expected to be home-ported in Hawaii.

Two of Miller’s nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement, including 66-year-old Flosetta Miller.

Ravenscroft said “Dorie” was a nickname that the Navy gave Miller, while “his family is extremely particular that he be called Doris Miller.” USS Miller, a destroyer escort, previously had been named in honor of the Pearl Harbor veteran.

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Miller’s Navy Cross citation reads, “For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.”

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, personally presented the Navy Cross to Miller on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.

According to the Navy, Miller, then 22, had arisen at 6 a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm sounded.

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